City Planning Approves Bronx River Rezoning for Affordable Housing

Current View of 1675 Westchester Avenue. Image Credit: Google Maps

The City Planning Commission approved the development of a new 13-story building in Bronx River with 220 affordable housing units and retail space. On August 23, 2017, the New York City Planning Commission issued a favorable report on an application from the 1675 JV Associates, LLC for a zoning map and text amendment. The zoning map amendment will change the current residential district (R6) into a mixed-use district (R8A/C2-4), and the text amendment will establish a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area on the project site.

The site is currently home to a vacant one-story building, which the borough president described as a “community liability.” The rezoning will permit the development of a new, 13-story building with 220 housing units, 7,570 square feet of retail space, and 6,845 square feet of community facility space. The new building’s residents will enjoy a fitness center, a community room, a computer room, a children’s play room adjacent to a laundry room, an exterior terrace, a garden, and a 24-hour doorman and cameras for security. All 220 units will be affordable—available to households with an Average Median Income ranging from 30% to 100%. While the applicant intends to maintain all units as affordable, the proposed zoning text amendment would ensure that at least 30% of the units (66 units) will be permanently affordable under Option 2 for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing.

The affected district has not been rezoned since the adoption of the Zoning Resolution in 1961. As listed in the report, the rezoning will modify the area on the north side of Westchester Avenue between Metcalf and Fteley Avenues (Block 3780, Lot 51 and a portion of Lot 1). The current residential district only allows up to a 2.43 floor area ratio for residential use, while the new mixed-used district would allow up to a 7.2 floor area ratio for Inclusionary Housing buildings. Also, the current residential district has two active businesses operating within it—rezoning the district to a mixed-use one will allow these businesses to come into conformance with zoning.

On June 15, 2017, Bronx Community Board 9 voted 13-1, with 3 abstentions, to recommend approval of the application with conditions. City Planning’s report acknowledged some of the Community Board’s conditions: a preference for seniors and veterans in housing, a community preference for hiring 25% of the project’s construction workers, and the creation of high-quality service jobs and community benefits. While these conditions are outside the scope of amending the zoning map and resolution, the applicant noted in a letter to City Planning that it would work with the community to address the requests.

On July 18, 2017, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. also recommended approval of the application. The borough president commended the amenities and affordability this building will provide its residents, but insisted the applicants reconsider the type of units offered to accommodate families, such as more multi-bedroom units and less studio units.

On July 26, 2017, City Planning held a public hearing on this application. The applicants acknowledged the borough president’s concern about unit type and size, and will explore a redesign based on the concerns. The applicants spoke of their willingness to address community needs—they are considering a partnership with Administration for Children’s Services to provide childcare in the building, following the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Extremely Low and Low Affordability program for the residential units, and designing the structure in a way that least disrupts the existing community. The bulk of the structure will be built cornering Westchester and Metcalf Avenues, two wide streets, with the garden acting as a buffer between lower-density buildings. Due to this precise location, City Planning found a rezoning of this scale and density to be appropriate.

CPC: 1675 Westchester Avenue Rezoning (C 170377 ZMX; N 170378 ZRX) (Aug. 23, 2017)

By: Shelby Hoffman (Shelby is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)

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